My research is drawing to a close just in time for classes to start. My advisor, Professor Linneman, is helping me to formalize and flesh out a brief paper that I’ve written about my findings. In it, I describe the types of coverage that I found most commonly, which include
- Redundancy (or, more kindly, mirroring the press release). I describe a problem that these types of articles create here.
- Only describing one finding
- Ignoring findings and criticizing the research for not considering those aspects
- Reporting science incorrectly
- Incorrect methods (numerical or incorrectly describing the process)
- Incorrect findings
- Attributing ideas not explored in the study as being one of the conclusions of the study
- Incorrect authors
- Misleading wording
With the exception of the first and second on this list, I counted these things as mistakes when I found them in an article. From the 340 articles/videos I studied, 59 of them included errors. Environment and life science articles had the lowest rate of errors (10% and 10.6% respectively), while social science articles had the highest incidence of errors (20%).
I mapped out the articles to show how the research traveled, and marked articles that contain errors with an asterisk. I also color coded them to show where they are in the dissemination process. Here are some examples:
Orange indicates that it is one degree away from the original research, blue is two degrees, pink is three degrees, and green is four degrees. My hope is that these maps make it clear where the errors arise. The majority of errors are two degrees away from the original study, meaning that most errors arise after the research has passed through at least one other news source.
I detail my methods and findings more in my paper, but I hope that this brief explanation has given you some idea of what I spent my summer doing. I look forward to seeing everyone’s projects at the research showcase!